HOUSTON - The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently helped Thermal Energy Corp. (TECO) celebrate the opening of a new combined heat and power (CHP) plant at the Texas Medical Center in Houston. The dedication ceremony marked the completion of the 48 megawatt facility that will provide steam, chilled water, and electricity to the 18 institutions comprising the campus - the largest medical center in the world. Supported by an award of $10 million in DOE funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the project now constitutes the largest on-campus, district chilled water system in the country.

CHP power plants generate both the heat and electricity needed for facility processes on-site, instead of using electricity from the grid, and can be nearly twice as efficient as conventional heat and power production. By making use of the heat produced during power generation on-site, CHP technologies, like those at work in the TECO plant, avoid losses from the generation and transmission of energy produced off-site. While the traditional method of producing separate heat and power has a typical combined efficiency of 45 percent, the TECO CHP system can operate at efficiency levels approaching 80 percent. The new CHP plant will save the Texas Medical Center up to $1.5 million a year in energy costs and reduce the Center’s emissions by roughly 300,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually.

The new TECO CHP facility is powered by a gas turbine technology similar to the types of technologies that power many of the world’s aircraft. The hot exhaust gases from the gas turbine are captured to generate steam for the medical facility. In fact, the electric and waste heat generated as a byproduct of the facility is converted to steam and chilled water that is then repurposed for use in air conditioning, space heating, dehumidification, sterilization, and other processes throughout the buildings on the medical center’s campus. The resulting energy efficiency gains will lead to corresponding energy cost savings and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and will save money for the medical center.

For more information on district energy systems and combined heat and power, visit www1.eere.energy.gov/industry/distributedenergy/.

Publication date:10/11/2010